Shocking rice pudding technique (report)

August 17th, 2017

“Currently, consumers’ concerns and consciousness about safety and nutritiousness of food consumptions are increasing. Fresh and fresh-like products have become more attractive in the market than the same kind of products produced by heat process.”

But heating isn’t the only method to preserve, say, rice pudding – you could pulse 33,000 volts though it instead. A joint US / Turkey / Thai investigation in 2008 did just that – with promising results. The team developed their own rice-pudding recipe (see diagram) and then exposed it to Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) treatment – the results of which showed that the pudding’s shelf life could be considerably extended whilst maintaining its fresh-like appearance.



• The diagram above is a pie chart of a rice pudding.

• The research project was funded by the U.S. Army Natick RD&E Center.

Ig Nobel ceremony on September 14 ( One month from today!)

August 14th, 2017

The 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony will happen on Thursday evening, September 14.

A few tickets (most of them in the back rows of the balcony) are still available.

The Harvard Box Office handles all ticket sales. The physical ticket office [now in a temporary location in Farkas Hall, 10 Holyoke Street, Cambridge] is open some (but not all!) days from noon to 6 pm. Telephone (+1) 617-496-2222.
The web site is open 24 hours, every day.

Tickets: $75 / $65 / $55 / $35
Student tickets: $70 / $60 / $50 / $30
Ig Glorious tickets: $150. We fund the ceremony (theater rental, and half a zillion other expenses) mainly through ticket revenues. We are offering a few special “Ig Glorious” tickets, for persons who want to be specially supportive. Ig Glorious tickets come with special perks: Excellent seats; A vintage copy of the Annals of Improbable Research, signed by an emissary; Their photo taken at the Ig Nobel lectern on stage (before or after the ceremony, at the discretion of the Stage Manager); Access to our Ig Glorious Liaison, a staff member assigned to the “Ig Glorious” group for the entirety of the event; And a hearty handshake!

WHERE: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University
WHEN: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017, 6:00 pm.
Ceremony details.

Shocking Mushrooms Technique (report)

August 14th, 2017

“The SPLG [pictured above] consists of four parts: a controller, connection cable, a high voltage generator, and a wheel electrode. The system is powered by rechargeable AA sized batteries. Lightening [sic] is generated by an epoch-making device which can be disassembled and used elsewhere.”

The epoch-making lightning dispenser was developed by Ferzana Islam and Shoji Ohga at the Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University, Japan, and is intended to give high voltage electric shocks to mushrooms – specifically Shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms.

“After applying the electric stimulator to the specific area, the numbers of mushroom were increased more than twice. Remarkable changes were also observed by weight gaining of the fruit bodies which increased 67% in the first harvest and 69% in the second harvest, and besides length was increased by 65 to 113%. [pictured below]

In their report, the team didn’t speculate about why giving the mushrooms electric shocks might make them grow faster and bigger, other than to note :

“ As the mechanism of fruit body formation is not still fully understood, it needs further more research work.”

See: The Response of Fruit Body Formation on Tricholoma matsutake In Situ Condition by Applying Electric Pulse Stimulator in ISRN Agronomy, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 462724.

Coming Soon: The effects of high voltage electric shocks on rice pudding.

Slowing down ping pong for TV (study)

August 10th, 2017

“The medial [sic] appeal of table tennis seems to go down in terms of TV hours, at least outside Asia. One of the reasons is the fact that the speed of the game is nowadays so high that it is very hard for spectators to follow the balls.”

So, in terms of slowing down the game (in order to increase its appeal for TV viewers) what might be done? In 2013, a team from the Institute of Physics, and the Institute of Community Medicine at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University, Greifswald, along with the Faculty of Informatics and Electrical Engineering, University Rostock, Germany, decided to use a computational modeling approach to provide answers.

An Euler solver was used, because its algorithmic simplicity allowed an easy transfer onto the GPU with CUDA. A commonly used Runge-Kutta algorithm was not chosen, because it has larger computational costs. A fourth order Runge Kutta approach needs to calculate four times the forces, which slows down the code performance in our case compared to the simple Euler method. This was not compensated by the larger time step possible with the Runge-Kutta method compared to the Euler method. The dependence of the aero dynamic forces on the velocity also does not allow the use of a Verlet algorithm. Therefore, we decided to stay with the Euler method.”

The results revealed not one, but two possible methodologies which could be practical solutions – if adopted by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

“A larger ball of 44 mm with small weight is one option for suppressing high velocities, resulting also in a reduction of the influence of spinning. As an alternative option an increase of the net height is possible.”

See:’ Computer simulations of table tennis ball trajectories for studies of the influence of ball size and net height ‘ in the International Journal of Computer Science in Sport, volume 12/2013/edition 2.

Bonus Task [optional] Suggest other methods that might be employed to slow down the game.

Also see: Things researchers do with ping-pong balls

Note: The illustration is an interesting candidate for the Necker cube illusion. (stare at it for a while and it will probably flip)




Soap Film Opera, fluid dynamically, in France

August 8th, 2017

A series of musico-visual treats — in a new genre called “soap film opera” — are being produced by Florence Elias and her colleagues at Laboratoire Matière et Sytèmes Complexes, Université Paris Diderot and at CNRS. The genre marries soap film, fluid dynamics, music, and videography. Here are three samples — “Habañera” from Carmen, “Lucilla”, and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”:

(Thanks to Nicole Sharp of FYFD for bringing this to our attention.)